Preparing for a Hurricane

As the weather gears up for another long hot summer, it is easy to forget that a major hurricane could be just weeks away. That’s right, folks – June 1st was the official start to “Hurricane Season”!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season this year. But don’t be reassured by the word “normal” – it means that we can expect 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes with wind speeds up to 110mph, and 2-4 major hurricanes in category 3 and above with wind speeds over 111mph. There is no way of telling if or where these storms will make landfall. Before they arrive – in other words, right now! – it is a very good idea to not only check that your home insurance is in order, but also to follow some basic steps to prepare. Thanks to our friends and partners at http://velocityrisk.com/ for the following excellent tips!:

  1. Create an emergency communication plan: Pre-arrange an evacuation route and destination with other members of your household, and be sure to know how to share warnings and alerts with your family members.
  2. Stock up on emergency supplies: What you’ll need: lots of water, non-perishable foods, can opener, flashlight and spare batteries, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, whistle, plastic sheeting and duct tape, can opener, cell phone with chargers and a backup battery.
  3. Check your home insurance: Make sure your home insurance policy covers damage caused by wind, hail, and named storms/hurricanes. Verify that you have low deductibles so your out-of-pocket costs in the event of a claim are low. Check that you have a Replacement Cost (not Actual Cash Value) policy. If in doubt …. speak to your friendly insurance agency in Houston, Memorial Insurance!
  4. Consider buying flood insurance: Don’t wait until the next Hurricane Harvey is bearing down on you before you get flood insurance, because even if you buy it today, there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect. So plan ahead and get yourself covered BEFORE the next hurricane is on the horizon. And remember – flood insurance is NOT included in your home insurance policy!

What Makes Home Insurance Expensive?

Insurance carriers take hundreds of factors into consideration when calculating premiums. Here are the six things that make the biggest difference to your home insurance rate:

  1. The location of your home: Texas is prone to hurricanes, and past events have shown insurers that homes close to the coast or to large bodies of water are more likely to incur losses. Consequently, these homes are more expensive to insure against weather-related perils. Some inland areas – particularly around Dallas/Fort Worth – regularly get devastating hailstorms, which have intensified in recent years, and have subsequently caused big premium increases in those areas. There are also less obvious factors at play, meaning that some zip codes are consistently more expensive for insurance than others, which is related to past losses in an area and the complicated algorithms that insurance companies use to determine risk.
  2. The age of your home: The days of sturdy, stone-and-brick homesteads built to last hundreds of years are long gone. These days, the chance of something going wrong with your home starts to rise rapidly after about 10 years of age. Roofs become less weather-resistant and need replacing, plumbing and other internal systems are more likely to malfunction, and nearby trees grow larger and become more likely to topple onto your house. The equation is simple: older home = higher chance of a claim = more expensive insurance!
  3. The age of your roof: Today’s shingle roofs are designed to last about 15-20 years. Insurance companies know this, and will therefore charge a higher premium for older roofs, offer an Actual Cash Value policy only, or even refuse to insure your home at all. Tile or metal roofs have longer lives, but the flip side for insurance companies is that they cost more to replace if destroyed by a hurricane.
  4. Type of plumbing: Homes built before 1985 that have not been completely updated may still retain all or some of their original galvanized pipes. Statistically, these kinds of pipes are far more likely to corrode and develop leaks than modern PVC piping. If your home still has galvanized plumbing, you will have a smaller choice of insurance carriers, and premiums will be more expensive.
  5. Your “insurance score”: Whenever you get a quote, insurance carriers run an “insurance score” on one or both applicants. This is a bit like a credit check and takes lots of factors into account, but it does not affect your credit score in the same way that a loan application does. If your insurance score is low, you could be paying more for the exact same policy than someone who has a high insurance score.
  6. Prior claims: While there is some leniency towards weather claims (after all, a hurricane is not your fault!), insurance companies are wary of homeowners who have multiple claims on their record for things like water damage, theft, and – especially – liability. Any zero-paid-out claims (where the amount of the claim costs less than your deductible) can also hike your premium at renewal. So it’s best to make absolutely sure BEFORE you file a claim that it’s going to be worthwhile to do so – your agent will be able to advise you.

The golden rule is – as always – to give your agent a call! Memorial Insurance Agency’s licensed agents will be happy to provide you with a quote, help you to decide whether to file a claim, and answer any questions that you may have about insurance.

6 Things to Look For in Home Insurance Mailers

Ever had something like this through the mail? Most likely you receive several of them every year in the lead-up to your home insurance renewal. They may sound tempting …. but how do you know if it’s a good quote? What should you be looking for? Let Memorial Insurance be your guide!:

  1. Coverage amounts: Do these match your current policy? They are often lower, because less coverage means a cheaper price. Your agent has several tools available to work out exactly how much your home should be insured for.
  2. Bells and Whistles: On this quote, $1,000,000 in personal liability is eye-catching, especially if your current policy offers “only” $300,000 or $500,000. But if you have an umbrella policy (which you should!), you’ll already have the high liability coverage anyway. And if you want to add higher liability to a homeowners policy, it’s only going to cost a few bucks a year. So this feature is not nearly as impressive as it sounds!
  3. Extended Replacement Cost: Some agents offer relatively low dwelling coverage amounts, but add the extended replacement cost endorsement and tell you it’s additional coverage for your home. This is not true. Extended replacement cost applies when a large area is afflicted by a catastrophe (for example a Category 4 hurricane), and the subsequent increased demand for materials and contractors pushes repair costs sky-high. This endorsement allows for extra coverage but ONLY in the event that replacement cost increases in your area as a direct result of a natural disaster. If faulty wiring causes your house to burn to the ground, you’ll get only your basic Dwelling Coverage amount from your insurance company.
  4. Deductibles: This quote headlines with the 1% deductible, but notice the cheeky 5% deductible in the middle? This part is the deductible for a named hurricane. If you keep in mind that named hurricanes are one of the leading causes of insurance claims in many states, including Texas, do you really want to be on the hook for a 5% deductible the next time a major weather event blows through? In the case of this particular policy, you’d be looking at a $30,000+ out of pocket payment before the insurance company stepped in to take care of the rest. If this is something you can afford and would be happy to pay for, then stop reading here! In Houston, a 2% hurricane deductible is standard, with 1% also available in some areas. At Memorial Insurance, we’d be happy to provide several quotes with different deductibles so you can make an informed choice and NOT get a nasty surprise after the next hurricane.
  5. Total Premium: The advertised rate on this quote is NOT the final price, it is a guess based on you having the best possible credit and zero prior claims. To get the final rate, insurance carriers run an “insurance score” taking into account the above plus many other factors. More than nine times out of ten, when you call the agent to take the quote, your premium will increase.
  6. Exclusions: Sure, this quote tells you that your contents are insured for replacement cost. But how about the roof? See my earlier blog post for details of why you do NOT want an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy. Moreover, are water coverages (slow seepage, water backup, foundation water damage) included? Most likely not, because these increase the premium, which would make for a less impressive mailout!

Moral of the story: if you’re interested in a quote you receive in the mail, make sure you get an “apples to apples” comparison with your current policy to make sure all the coverage levels match. Better still, why not give Memorial Insurance a call – we have most of the main home insurance carriers in our agency, so we will do the shopping and comparing for you, and make 100% sure you are correctly insured!

How to File a Claim

We are slap bang in the middle of hurricane season, and while there are no storms on the Texas horizon – yet! – it definitely pays to be prepared with the phone number for your insurance company’s claims department.

Updated claims numbers for all our carriers are listed below. Before picking up the phone, make sure:

1) That what you are claiming for is covered by your insurance policy, and ….
2) That the amount of the claim is likely to exceed your deductible (if in doubt, get an estimate from a contractor)

Above all, remember that your account manager at Memorial Insurance Agency is here to help you. If you have any doubts about whether to file a claim, call us FIRST!

Good luck and fingers crossed for the rest of hurricane season!

COMPANY NAME CLAIMS#
AIG 1-888-760-9195
Allstate 1-800 ALLSTATE
ASI 1-866-274-5677
ASI FLOOD 1-866-274-5677
Bankers 1-800-765-9700
BRISTOL WEST 1-800-274-7865
Centauri 1-866-215-7574
CHUBB 1-800-252-4670
CYPRESS TEXAS 1-877-560-5224
Federated National 1-800-293-2532
FIDELITY NATIONAL 1-800-220-1351
FIDELITY FLOOD 1-800-725-9472
FOREMOST 1-800-527-3907
GeoVera 1-800-631-6478
GMAC 1-800-468-3466
Gulfstream 1-866-485-3005
HARTFORD 1-800-243-5860
Homeowners of America 1-866-407-9896
IMPERIAL 1-800-325-1088
Infinity 1-800-334-1661
Lighthouse 1-877-852-0606
Maison 1-844-962-4766
MERCURY 1-800-503-3724
MetLife 1-800-422-4272
Mission Select 1-800-233-2160
National General 1-800-325-1088
NFS Edge Flood 1-888-281-0684
Occidental 1-800-780-8423
Pillar 1-800-780-8423
PROGRESSIVE 1-800-776-4737
SAFECO 1-800-332-3226
State Auto 1-800-766-1853
Swyfft 1-855-542-0917
Texas Fair Plan 1-800-979-6440
TWIA 1-800-788-8247
TRAVELERS 1-800-252-4633
UNITRIN 1-800-777-8467
Universal North America 1-866-999-0898
UPC 1-888-256-3378
Velocity Risk 1-844-878-2567
WELLINGTON 1-800-447-6465
Wilshire 1-800-780-8423
Wright Flood 1-800-725-9472

2018 Hurricane Prep Toolkit

Thank you to our friends at Lighthouse Insurance for the following advice. Make sure you’re well prepared for hurricane season!

Weather Alert Apps: A variety of free smartphone apps help you stay ahead of the weather. The sooner you know, the more time you have to prepare. Check out more details here.

Emergency Preparedness Kit: Get these things in advance so you’re ready for when a hurricane hits.

Hurricane Prep Resources: Follow these tips for having emergency communication and action plans – essential when a major hurricane strikes.

Stay Safe this Summer!